Ivan Yakovina writes for NV on what would it take for Ukraine to launch a counteroffensive, and on the ever-expanding list of people who would rather see Russian dictator Vladimir Putin dead.
Russia is losing any hope for victory. Circumstantial evidence points towards Ukraine being soon able to launch sweeping counteroffensive operations.
Operations like that require offensive weapons, mostly tanks. According to the Pentagon’s assessment, Ukraine currently has more working tanks than Russia. Both captured Russian tanks and military aid from Central- and Eastern European countries have contributed to this.
Tanks, however, need air support. AA capabilities are now of most importance. Everything is, as always, underpinned by logistics – all this armor needs to actually arrive at the front line. These issues, however, are being solved, incrementally.
The flow of UAVs, howitzers, AA systems and tanks is allowing Ukraine to soften up the Russian defenses, ahead of forthcoming armored assaults. Conditions for Ukraine to pivot into a counteroffensive are materializing. Once that process is finished – we will prevail.
There is a certain pattern emerging. The Russian advance in the east is exhausting itself – their attacks are slow, with heavy equipment and personnel losses. The Armed Forces of Ukraine (ZSU) is getting bolstered with more and more artillery, other offensive weapons, and manpower – mobilization is underway.
Not to mention that Ukrainian morale far surpasses that of the enemy. Thousands of Russian soldiers are refusing deployments, and quitting the service altogether.
In some time, the balance of power will shift decisively in Ukraine’s favor. It’s inevitable. That would be the time for a swift counterattack that could very well shatter Russian forces.
Such a blitz will become the pivotal event of this war. But we shouldn’t be hasty. Without thorough preparations, the whole campaign could be ruined, and we don’t have room for error here.
Any substantive peace or ceasefire talks with Russia could take place only after its army is defeated on the battlefield. And that’s exactly the way the situation in Donbas is starting to point. Until that happens, Russia's leadership will remain convinced of its imminent victory.
They still can’t fathom they could ever lose to Ukraine. It’s as alien as fried ice to them. That’s why Moscow keeps insisting on its own ceasefire terms. Putin doesn’t understand he’s losing this war. It’s not necessarily bad news for us – an overconfident enemy is less dangerous than one who is firmly grounded in reality.
In general, here’s what things look like for Russia.
Neither Kyiv nor Mariupol were taken after two months of intense fighting. Moskva (Russian Black Sea Fleet flagship) was sunk. The massive offensive in Donbas – which they announced a month ago – is failing to produce any results. Meanwhile, Ukraine is receiving ever-increasing amounts of military aid, including heavy offensive weaponry.
Diplomacy-wise, Russia is also in trouble. Kyiv is not pleading for terms and is instead stalling for time, waiting for its negotiation position to improve. On top of that, Ukraine is even issuing ultimatums of its own to the Kremlin. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was positively livid when the Ukrainian said it would abandon peace talks if Moscow stages a sham “independence referendum” in Kherson oblast.
Much like the cruiser Moskva, the Russian economy is steadily sinking. Sailors are running around the deck, trying to salvage the situation, but it’s already clear that the ship is doomed. The captain may still be assuring people that everything is under control and there’s plenty of buoyancy left, but only the most fervent adherents believe him.
The rest, in the meantime, are grabbing their families, their belongings, and desperately trying to row as far as possible from the soon-to-be shipwreck, hoping to avoid getting sucked down with it.
Some Russian elites are chained to hull with golden chains. They are staring to see that the captain is leading the ship not to the east or west, but to the bottom of the ocean. Russian media outlet Meduza reported that Putin’s entourage is scrambling to find any acceptable way to end the war.
But they are powerless to do so since their own populace has been drummed up to demand nothing less than prosecuting the war to a decisive victory – even the current peace talks are considered treasonous. The Kremlin is afraid of upsetting its citizens, who are refusing to accept anything but a military victory.
Anxious panic is brewing in the Kremlin, as no comfortable resolution of the situation is emerging. Putin’s inner circle understands they can forget about a military victory, and, according to Meduza, have decided to let things play out as they will. It’s a very puzzling decision to adopt such a lame strategy. It won’t end well, most likely.
So, as far as I can gather, the war will continue, nobody’s going to end it. At the same time, talks will continue, since Moscow wants a way to quickly sign a peace deal if Ukraine changes its mind and accepts Putin’s terms, i.e. – surrenders. But Ukraine will never accede to their demands, so I’m not sure what they’re hoping for.
So far, we’re observing a flight of skilled middle-class Russians from their country. This emigration wave is becoming comparable with the 1917 one, when the most educated, productive population left. It’s also clear that some are trying to flee with as much cash as they get their hands on.
On paper, top Russian officials have very little property and wealth. Their assets are instead nominally owned by third parties, so-called “wallets.” These “walletmen” have some jobs and titles, and are registered owners of vast amounts of capital. So, while it’s unbecoming for a minister to be a billionaire, his deputy acts as custodian and de-jure owner of his superior’s wealth.
Now, as the ministers are getting targeted by Western sanctions, their underlings are taking advantage of the situation and fleeing abroad. I’d wager this dynamic has been accelerating rapidly, given that the following people were found dead in the last three months:
· Gazprom top-manager Leonid Shulman;
· Gazprom top-manager Alexander Tyulakov;
· Former vice-president of GazpromBank Vladislav Avayev and his family;
· Former top manager of Novatek Sergey Protosenko, his wife and daughter.
I suspect these people decided they could make better use of the billions they were supposed to watch over. Their reasoning produced tragic results – true owners of their wealth were rather cross at the prospect of their billions slipping away, beyond their reach. Those people were murdered along with their families for inheritance reasons.
Nevertheless, many other “walletmen” will find a way to shelter in the West and live out their days in opulence. They will just become better at hiding.
I wonder what the actual Russian billionaires think, though. They spent decades amassing their wealth by the way of theft, bribery, murder – only to see some scoundrel abscond to Spain with $10 billion of their money. No way to try and chase the deserters due to sanctions and Putin not letting anyone out of the country. Must be quite upsetting.
These people are watching their whole world crumble around them. It’s happening because of one man – Vladimir Putin. I’m sure the ranks of those who want him dead are swelling both in Russia and abroad. In Russia, Putin is causing his robber barons to lose their wealth. Overseas – foreign governments and intelligence services are working to prevent the possibility of Putin ordering a nuclear strike. The search for people in his inner circle who could stop him is ongoing; after all, it’s a question of averting a global thermonuclear war.
I’d wager that the CIA, MI-6, and even Chinese spies are all laboring to neutralize the obvious threat to humanity – Vladimir Putin.